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Luxury Re-Designed: How the Ritz-Carlton Uses Experiential Service Design To Pos

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Natalie Nixon, Associate Professor and Director of the Fashion Industry Management Program , Philadelphia University; Alison Rieple, Professor of Strategic Management, University of Westminster, Harrow Business School


This is a narrative about an organization that has redefined itself in the face of change, using structures and systems to enable fluidity and flux. It is an evolving organization that has freed up its focus on operations to pay more attention to experiential service delivery. The Ritz-Carlton no longer sees itself as a ""hotel company""; it now considers itself an ""experience and memory creator."" The issue we address is this: How does a luxury organization adapt to changing definitions of luxury, and what systems are in place to allow it to adjust? One way of understanding emergent properties and adaptive systems is through chaordic systems thinking, or CST. The chaordic view of an organization studies the balance and flow between the firm's structures and frameworks (order) and the emergent creative self-organizing among employees (chaos). Viewed through the lens of chaordic systems thinking (Hock, 2005; van Eijnatten and van Gallen, 2002), the qualitative research undertaken for this article examines The Ritz-Carlton as an evolving organization that has re-evaluated its service design processes in order to deliver more experientially-based employee and customer engagement (Figure 1).The data used consists of more than 50 interviews with Ritz-Carlton management, front-line staff, and consultants to the company. It also includes onsite visits and extended observation at eight Ritz-Carlton properties and the corporate office. An emerging subtext within the qualitative research data was that the chaordic frameworks The Ritz-Carlton uses have delivered meaningful value within the changing definition of luxury that presented itself to the company as the result of the economic recession in 2008. The Ritz-Carlton's chaordic frameworks make adaptation to those changes possible.The results also revealed that the duality of narrative and story (Boje, 2008) are at work in the evolution of The Ritz-Carlton as an organization.




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